The Ernie Ball booth is always full of fast and furious activity. This year was no exception. The highlight for me was the live performances by Steve Morse and Albert Lee and the Q&A with those stellar artists along with Steve Lukather, Sterling Ball and later on Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine. There were multiple subjects during the Q&A but the main focus was the new CD release from Sterling Ball, John Ferraro and Jim Cox "The Mutual Admiration Society".

NAMM2018

James Valentine, Sterling Ball, Steve Morse, Albert Lee and Luke

Sterling Ball said this record is 40 years of friendship. About Sterling Ball Luke said "this is one of the most selfless, generous people that I've ever met in my entire life in every aspect. He's always been there for me and my family inside of the music business and outside of the music business. To give something back to a dear friend that has everything. What do you buy somebody that has everything? Your time. That is what my contribution was. I don't do sessions anymore. I go to bed at 9.30 p.m. and Jay Graydon's like (Luke mimicking a Graydon like voice) 'hey man. I'm just waking up, come over to the studio'. Luke then added "there was a time when I went to bed at 9.30 a.m. But that was a long, long time ago. Luke was then proactive apologizing for anything he may or may not say regarding his famous sense of humor. Luke did remind any naysayers that despite his reputation all four of his kids are normal. That my friends is a better judge of character than a reputation earned or not."

Sterling then reflected on the musical influences of his mother and father. He reflected about his guitar playing father Ernie Ball and Luke immediately interjected "I saw him live! He killed it, killed it!". Sterling then talked about all of the musicians playing on the new release. "Every one of these guys has what every player strives and wishes they had that as a voice, unmistakable voice and a voice that inspired millions of guitar players. Starting with Steve Lukather, one of the most recorded guitarists. One of the most expressive, sensitive and fluent players. His ability to make everyone sound better. And one of the things about Luke is the rhythm guitar playing. The solos are great. All three of these guys have that. When you hear a solo by Luke, it's Luke". Sterling said "the record was an accident of 40 years of friendship." Luke chimed in with "you know what that is man? I can tell you right now. That's our gift to you. Because we love you." The question posed to the group was: has Sterling inspired you in the studio with his guitar playing, with these songs? Luke chimed in "he takes us to places we wouldn't normally have been." Luke then told an epic Miles Davis story " that's like some guy walking up to Miles Davis after a gig who was subbing for the bass player and said 'so MILES when was the last time we played a gig? Miles said TONIGHT'!"

Luke talking about the individuals playing on the record said "that's the thing I noticed about from each and every one of us was there was a little wink to it. More so than there would be if we were playing on our own record. We gave it our all but because of the song choices that were given to us there was a little wink,wink to it." Sterling said "isn't there always at a gig?" Luke said "YA! Everything is so friggin' serious ALL of the time that who would think that Steve Morse would play 'The in Crowd'. Sterling then talked about the genius of Steve Vai. he said "what a deep guy. I just saw him and he's scat singing at this camp and Vai's writing it out while he's singing one handed. This guy has a scary gift of music". Luke said "you don't know whether to kiss him or punch him. That's how good he is."

Steve Morse talking about Jay Graydon said "Jay understands every part of the recording process at such a high level that I always learn something from just talking to him." Luke said "Jay retired at 35. So a lot of people may not know him. He played the solo on "Peg" (Steely Dan) which is his most famous solo but certainly not his only one. And then he produced records." Sterling "didn't you guys write "Turn your Love Around"? ( 1983 Grammy winner for Luke, Graydon and Bill Champlin) Luke "We wrote 'Turn Your Love Around'. He is now getting well and working again, having fun in the studio." Albert said "when we started I was kind of scared but at the end of the day I held my own. At the end of the day I'll get up and play with anybody if I can play with these guys." Luke said "we feel the same way about you."

The "Mutual Admiration Society" release is stellar and not only features Sterling Ball (Guitar/Producer), Jim Cox (Keyboards/Producer) and John Ferraro (Drums/Producer) it also features guest appearances by Steve Lukather (Guitar), Steve Morse (Guitar), Albert Lee (Guitar), Steve Vai (Guitar), John Petrucci (Guitar) and Jay Graydon (Guitar).

Sterling recommended if you wish to purchase this release, purchase it here at Amazon.

MAS2018